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The civilianization of armed conflict: trends and implications

31-12-2008 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 872, by Andreas Wenger and Simon J. A. Mason

Civilians play an increasingly important and complex role in armed conflicts, both as victims and perpetrators. While this overall trend of “civilianization” encompasses all types of present-day conflicts, it takes on a very different nature in high-technology warfare than in the context of low-technology combats that are typical of many civil wars.

   

Andreas Wenger is Professor of International and Swiss Security Policy and Director of the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich. Dr Simon J. A. Mason is a senior researcher working at the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich. 
 
Abstract 
Civilians play an increasingly important and complex role in armed conflicts, both as victims and as perpetrators. While this overall trend towards ‘civilianization’ encompasses all types of present-day conflicts, it is twofold: it takes on a very different nature in high-technology warfare than in the context of low-technology combats that are typical of many civil wars. This article explores these two trends, shows how they merge in asymmetric warfare and outlines key implications for international stabilization and state-building efforts. The present-day conflict landscape is presented from a security policy point of view, placing the ongoing debates on the civilian participation in hostilities in a broader strategic context.  


 
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